There’s a big hurdle to get over or around in social media for small business. It’s a counterintuitive step we all have to take to prove to our audience that we’re in it for them and not for us. But it’s a confusing and painful step for many business owners to take.

The big hurdle for social media for small business? Sharing other people’s content.

Case in point, one reader messaged me this week with the following:

Do you think it’s better to share posts and articles from others on services you provide or better to share posts on services you don’t provide but are helpful to your audience? Example, should a local painting company share articles on how to properly paint kitchen cabinets, and other painting tips & tricks from resources like “Handyman” magazine or should they not share “how to” or “DIY” because then they are just helping the customer do it themselves instead of hiring them? And instead share non-compete things like general home remodeling?

Hurdles in social media for small businessThe traditional business person would recommend never sharing something from a competitor or something that would empower your audience to do something on their own you want them to pay you for. But that’s an untrustworthy position. If your audience finds out you’d rather not help them at the expense of forcing them to pay you money, they won’t trust you.
The social media ethos, which traces its lineage back to The Cluetrain Manifesto and is easily summed up by Laura Fitton‘s long-time mantra to “Be useful,” is about building trust and relationships, not customer databases and sales. To earn people’s dollars, you first need to earn their trust. So my answer was this:

If the content helps your audience and you share it with them, they’ll assign trust to you. In most cases, they will think, “Oh, that’s nice. I can do it myself. But why would I? Let’s hire them!” Certainly there’s some minimal risk they’d go to the site instead of the company that shared it with them, but that’s a nominal number. They follow you or are seeing your posts … there’s a level of trust already there. Being useful to them just strengthens it!

As much as this will make many cringe who are trying to implement social media for small business, I would go so far as to say if your primary competitor has content that is ultimately useful to your audience, you should share it.

Why? The world isn’t an end sum game. You don’t need every customer to buy from you. You just need the amount that will allow you to be successful. And that’s not all of them.

So when you find something that your audience can use, share it. And watch that trust barometer move upward in your favor.

How far would you go to help your audience? What wouldn’t you share with them? Let’s chat about it. The comments are yours.

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